Yesterday, the Johannesburg High Court heard arguments from Cell C and its disgruntled former customer George Prokas over the banner advert that was erected by Prokas outside of the WorldWear Mall in Johannesburg last week.
The banner, which originally read “The most useless service provider in SA – Cell C Sandton City”, also prominently featured the branding and logo of Cell C, as well as the name and cell phone number of the franchise manager.
Arguing for Cell C, Christopher Whittcutt said that the banner represented a defamatory statement and that “As it stands, it continues to be unlawful and it is that unlawfulness the applicant (Cell C) seeks to interdict.”
The issue between Prokas and Cell C arose out of a cell phone contract that he had taken out for his son in 2013. The phone number turned out to be linked to a SIM card being used by someone else who then proceeded to rack up a bill of over R5 000 before the stop order was cancelled by Prokas in October last year.
In 2014 when he had attempted to buy a car, Prokas discovered that he was listed for the bad debt owing on the contract and was subsequently unable to obtain the finance required.
Prokas had threatened Cell C with the banner in email exchanges between the two after growing frustrated with the inability to resolve the dispute.
According to the statements in court, the banner cost Mr Prokas R61 200 to have made and erected at the shopping centre, an amount which he is also trying to get Cell C to cover as part of the costs that he is seeking from the mobile network operator an idea that Whittcutt has described as “blackmail, as defined in the Oxford English Dictionary.”
The ruling by judge Sharise Weiner is expected some time after 14h00 today, and we’ll keep you updated with the latest.